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Turn to Jesus (Article)

“Be a priest? That takes too long!”
Father José Avisaí Muñoz Loza, LC (Mexico)

P. José Avisaí Muñoz Loza , L.C.
Fr. José Avisaí Muñoz Loza , LC

When I was a teenager, I used to devour the pages of The Lord of the Rings and other books like that, and I used to think how great it would be to live as the main character of some of those stories that literature is filled with. Very often, interrupting the readings for studies or another task, I considered myself unfortunate because I would have to share everybody else’s routine, a routine that had nothing to do with the adventures with which the great writers used to paint their characters. I was very far from imagining that the story that God was about to write with my own life would end up, by far, more passionate and original than those novels that I had read in the past.

How could it be that I never figured this out? If a man—finite, limited—is capable of infusing so much genius and so much beauty into matter (whether it be marble, a canvas, the key board of a piano, or the content of a book), what would God not be able to do with a common man, a simple being of flesh and bones?

I have 135 cousins
I was born in 1978, number 80 of 136 cousins (the number 99 of my mother’s family would be born in 1999). I was the sixth in a family of nine; of these nine, four brothers and four sisters are still alive.

Even though I was born in the city of Aguascalientes, one of the cities with the biggest percentage of religiosity in Mexico, I spent the first five years of my life in San Miguel Allende, a beautiful little town, and a tourist hot-spot.

After the tragic death of my brother, Joel, in the pool at our ranch, a death that shocked my parents immensely--and in spite of the fact that the majority of my family was living in Aguascalientes—my dad decided to sell the ranch and move back to Aguascalientes, specifically to a division called Fatima, which was founded by large and strong Catholics families of farmers coming from Jalisco.

In this neighborhood, if you were at a friend’s house in the evening, it was really common to be invited by his mother to say the Rosary with them. And there you were, praying the Rosary with his family. And if your friend happened to be at your house one evening, it was really probable he would end up praying in your house. There were entire families attending daily Mass. In short, religiosity was something that you could touch very easily in this area during those times. 

The first steps  
Right after we moved, something happened that I can only explain in this way: God chose me for him and he wanted to show me that. I was six years old when my older brothers began to speak about those careers that they wanted to do and about the amount of time it would take.  At one point, someone spoke about
P. José Avisaí Muñoz Loza , L.C.
the priestly vocation. “But it takes too long,” another said. “How long does it take?” I heard.  “About twenty years,” someone answered.

I got scared when I heard twenty years, but after a moment of reflection, and without any particular reason, I said, “I want to be a priest.” This was what would be the first step of many others that God took to come out and meet me.

I began my studies at St. Theresa’s Elementary School which enjoyed a reputation for its excellent academic level. (The students of St. Therese’s Elementary School often won the “Niño México” a prize for the best student in México in the sixth grade awarded by the President himself). But the best part about this School was the spiritual formation that we received. I can say that the Catholic environment, the sacrament of confession and the Mass on the first Friday of the month, along with the classes of religion that were so well explained to us marked my childhood.

Everything had to do with art
Soon I became fond of music, singing and everything that had to do with art. At school I learned to read music, and then I began to play the recorder. From this I moved on to flute, piccolo and later the Irish flute. Technical and artistic drawings, as well as frame decoration (a technique we learned to do) were my favorite subjects. Thanks to a neighbor, who spent his spare time doing miniature sculpting, I began with sculpture as well. When I was eleven I composed my first melodies. As time went on, my fondness of art became centered on music.

I mention here my inclination to different artistic disciplines because they would later play an important role for God’s work in my interior. Indeed, even if all talents can be used in religious life to bring souls to God, there is still the risk that they may become a hindrance, at least for some time.  And God wanted to place the choice before me: either make my life spin around my likes (music, literature, etc.), or on the other hand to center myself on Him and the mission he had entrusted me.

But, the dénouement of this conflict would happen in later years. For the moment I continued my elementary studies. The results weren’t completely satisfactory. Study and I didn’t make a good couple at that time. But in spite of this, they invited me to take some test in order to be able to participate in Niño Mexico Contest. But my idleness yielded its fruit: I failed the tests. 
 I gladly signed up
Around that time, two likable priests showed up at my school. They were very distinguished, which inspired trust and irradiated liveliness. I gladly signed up for the open invitation they made to visit the seminary at Leon. As a good teenager, the idea of spending some days away from home seemed very attractive.

After the conversation my parents had with these Legionaries (Father Juan Márquez and Father Pedro Valdemar), they became more at peace and even delighted with the quick friendship we had made with them. Fifteen days later we arrived at the minor seminary in Leon. There I was surprised by the fact that El Pumita, a friend who I hadn’t seen for a year and had a great influence on me, was a seminarian. Ruben, another of my friends, was there as well. This made me gain confidence right away.

Three days later I went back home, I was absolutely sure that this place was for me.  It had been some time since I had restlessness for “assuring heaven” and in my childish mentality, there wasn’t anybody closer to heaven than those boys: having the possibility of spending their lives in common hobbies that the world offered them, they dedicated their energy to prepare themselves in order to conquer mankind for Christ. And besides, they were excellent at soccer, basketball and volleyball; they had a band at a good level; they studied Latin, Greek, and English. This was definitely my place.

Three months later
Three months after the visit, I was taking the bus for León. I will never forget my mom’s tears and farewells. But the sorrow that she, as well as my dad, felt in those first years of separation would little by little become a joy and satisfaction that greatly surpasses the first sorrow.

Thus I began my life at the apostolic school of the Legionaries of Christ. During that time, my decision to follow Christ in the Legionary priesthood matured. Those were years of joy and of hard moments, but marked by Mary’s constant presence in every circumstance. It was she who obtained for me the graces I needed to give an unconditional and generous yes to Christ’s calling. Besides, I always counted on my parents’ and siblings’ unconditional support, as well as on the closeness of the religious who formed me, who were men of high spiritual and human stature.

 What couldn’t the Lord do with a priest?
From the eighteen years that have passed since then, I will point out two exemplary cases. The first happened on the night of December 23, 2003. That Christmas, I assisted as an acolyte to John Paul II. I can never thank God enough for the grace of having washed his hands during offertory and after communion, and having been so close to him during that Mass, so dear to the whole Church. It is a grace that I will always consider as an unmerited gift from God.

The second case took place a couple of months ago. On a cold winter night, some young people were talking in a street of Murcia, Spain. They stopped me and asked if I was a priest. I told them that I was still some months away from ordination. We quickly gained each other’s trust and they told me part of their lives. Although they were young (they weren’t older than 16) they were involved in spiritism and other thorny issues. They had a wrong view about God. I entrusted myself to the Holy Spirit and to Saint Michael the Archangel, asking them to enlighten me. After an hour and a half of open conversation, (I was freezing) I noticed a sincere hunger for God and an openness to his grace. They asked me tons of questions and I talked to them about heaven, God’s mercy and many other topics that seem to open before them unsuspected horizons. They requested confession and I wasn’t able to confess them but told them to go to their parish priest. They agreed and afterwards, when the conversation seemed to draw to a close, they all said, as if moved by the same impulse, “What peace I feel now! Why didn’t anybody tell us all this before?” Two girls of the group openly committed themselves to changing their lives. At the end, they asked me for my phone number and we said good-bye.

Once this conversation was over, in which I noticed as in a few occasions the powerful action of the Holy Spirit, on my way home, excited I asked myself why God had chosen me to help those people in such a special way.  Among all the ideas that came to my mind, one was certain: “If this is what God does with a candidate to the priesthood, what couldn’t he do with a priest, who is another Christ on earth?”

I would like to conclude by doing justice to the people—maybe a hundred—that have been praying for me for more than ten years. Every day I am more convinced that the priest is what he is thanks to prayer, his own and that of others.

Father Avisai Muñoz Loza was born in Aguascalientes, Mexico on August 30th 1978. He studied at Santa Teresita School. On July 10, 1990 he joined the Legion of Christ’s minor seminary in Leon, Mexico. On September 15th, 1994 he began his novitiate in Monterrey. He completed his humanities studies in Salamanca, Spain. After two years of philosophy in Rome, he worked in youth clubs in Madrid (2000-2002) and Seville (2002-2003).  He earned his license in philosophy at the Pontifical Regina Apostolorum College. Since the summer of 2007, he has been working in Murcia, Spain with the Faro youth club.

Translation of the vocation story published in the book "Vivir para Cristo"



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